ECHO
ECHO: Reverso Poems About the Greek Myths
by Marilyn Singer, Illustrated by Josee Masse, Dial Books, $16.99, 32 pages ages 6-9.

This April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, and in recognition of that milestone we’ll be highlighting many of the best new poetry books. Marilyn Singer and Josee Masse’s last collaboration of poetry was 2013′s Follow Follow, a book of poetic reversos: read one way, each poem recounts one mythological character’s side of the story. Read in reverse, the poems reveal a new, unexpected point of view. Fourteen reversos offer new interpretations of
great tales from Greek mythology–Medusa gives her haughty, powerful counterpoint to Perseus’s stony bravery, and even the devilish box of horrors opened by Pandora gets the poetic treatment. Masse’s familiar illustrations are fun and slyly offer two perspectives to match the poetry. Echo Echo would make an excellent addition to an English or Language Arts curriculum.

Late Summer Dances

Yes, it’s August, whether we like it or not, and in these dog days, let’s remember to relish this time before young ones return to school and life resumes its daily rhythm. With the summer’s ease in mind, the following two books are wonderful reminders that this is the season for fun, whimsy, and cultivating friendships.

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret by Bob Shea (Disney-Hyperion, $9.99 ages 5-8) appeared on many summer-reading lists, and for good reason: Shea  cornered the market with his brand of bold, slightly retro art and snappy writing. In this early reader, we meet energetic Ballet Cat and her best friend Sparkles the Pony. The pair are having trouble figuring out what to play, and even though they decide on a dance party, Sparkles moves are less than inspired, and Ballet Cat can’t figure out what’s wrong. Yes, there is a secret, but Sparkles is scared about sharing this one – what if it ruins their friendship? Parents will find the pace similar to Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie early readers, and kids will happily read this one aloud, on their own or with adults. Looking forward to further installments in the series.

Marilyn Singer has written over 100 books for children, and her Tallulah books are particularly beloved. In Tallulah’s Tap Shoes (Clarion Books, $16.99, ages 5-8) the budding ballerina and her younger brother Beckett sign up for summer dance camp, and this is the first time our heroine tries tap. Tallulah’s confidence plummets in tap class, while another camper named Kacie excels. Both girls eventually learn that patience and hard work bring rewards, and that no one is the best at everything – themes that will certainly resonate with young perfectionists.  Alexandra Boiger’s watercolors evoke all the sparkles and glitter a tiny dancer could ever hope for, while also capturing the subtle struggle of self-acceptance and and self-discovery. Every page is a treat, right down to the endpapers where Kacie demonstrates a tap shuffle.

Odes to Odd Creatures

“A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats & The Animals That Call Them Home,” by Marilyn Singer, illustrations by Ed Young; Chronicle Books, $16.99, 44 pages, ages 6-10. 

Mudskippers, snow monkeys and limpets are three of the fourteen remarkable animals profiled in this poetry collection by award-winning author Marilyn Singer. This book would be an exciting introduction to poetry for the young reader who may not yet  understand that poems can take many forms. A compact lexicon explains the types of poetry found in the book, and which poems are examples of them, such as free verse, sonnet, and villanelle. “Well-Oiled,” for instance, is a cinquain homage to insects born in petroleum.  (Thousands/of them are born/in carrion, water, /or soil. But not this crew. /They hatch/in oil.)  A second glossary details the animals described in verse. Collages of land and seascapes by the unstoppable Ed Young (“Nighttime Ninja;” see our review here) capture perfectly the essence of these dangerous dwellings.